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June 2014

Latest Research Studies and Reports
Eating Organic Reduces Pesticide Exposure
A new study published in the journal Environmental Research found that eating an organic diet for a week can reduce pesticide exposure.  The research was led by Dr. Liza Oates, who examined pesticide metabolites in the urine of 13 individuals who consumed a diet of at least 80% organic over 7 days, and a diet of conventional food for 7 days. Dr. Oates’ team found that the total pesticide metabolite levels were reduced by up to 96% by eating organic, with an average reduction of 50%. This study shows that eating an organic diet can reduce the exposure to chemicals that have been associated with health risks. As stated by Dr. Oates, “Recent studies have raised concerns for the health effects of these chemicals even at relatively low levels.” It’s nice to see a study showing that choosing organic can make a significant difference in your exposure levels!
 
Study finds that Organic Food Consumption Benefits Public Health
A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health concluded that eating an organic diet can contribute to human well-being. The research was led by Dr. Johansson, The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who reviewed current research on the effect of organic agriculture and crops on public health. Finding a clear health advantage of consuming organic, her team states that “both animal studies and in vitro studies clearly indicate the benefits of consumption of organically produced food instead of that conventionally produced.” The increased phenolic compounds and lower pesticide residues found in organic produce could partially account for these benefits, but the study also points out that the significant advantages of organic cannot be explained by these variables alone. Researchers suggest that synergistic effects between various constituents within organic food are likely to be part of the reason organic food is more beneficial to public health than conventional products.
 
Higher Pollinator Biodiversity in Organic Farms
Several studies have shown that organic farming is beneficial for bees, but a recent study published in Animal Conservation takes a new perspective on ways that organic farming contributes to pollinator health. The study looked at the interaction between plants and pollinators, to see if insect-flower interactions were higher on organic farms. Specifically, they looked at the number of visits pollinators made to flowers in organic vineyards compared with conventional vineyards. They found that organically managed vineyards had significantly higher numbers of interactions between pollinators and flowers than those managed conventionally. The increased abundance of flowering plants growing in organic farms contributed to this finding. This study shows that organic farming will be critical for maintaining pollinator biodiversity in the future. The study authors conclude that “Our results support the importance of less-intensive farming for promoting biodiversity. Approaches such as organic farming are especially beneficial for important interaction networks that drive the process of maintaining biodiversity.”
 
Organically Managed Soils Could Reverse Effects of Climate Change
The Rodale Institute has done some amazing science supporting the benefits of organic agriculture, and its new report, entitled “Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change,” maintains this high quality of investigation. The report take an in-depth look at how farming systems affect greenhouse gas emission, and illustrates the benefits that organic agriculture can have on climate change. Specifically, the publication focuses on the ability of soil to mitigate climate change when managed organically. Findings include a decrease of annual greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent if management of all current cropland transitioned to regenerative organic agriculture. Transitioning global pasture would add to carbon sequestration by 71 percent. “We could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices,” the report states.

Latest Updates from The Organic Center
Research Panel at The Organic Trade Association’s Policy Conference
The Organic Center hosted a science session at OTA’s Policy Conference and Hill Visit Days last week in Washington D.C. The event is OTA’s annual, signature policymaking event, bringing together farmers, executives, policymakers and other thought leaders in the field of organic.  Panelists in attendance at the meeting included Professor Jane Dever of Texas A & M University, Mathieu Ngouajio (Program Manager at USDA-NIFA), Brise Tencer (Executive Director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation), and Chris Messer (Chief of the Census Planning Branch at USDA-NASS). The panel focused on research priorities and new funding opportunities available for funding organic data collection and research.  Panelists discussed environmental, health, and applied research needs areas, as well as funding sources for organic scientific research, such as public grants, private foundations, and industry partnerships.
 
The Organic Center Responds to “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable” Op-ed
The Organic Center posted a response to the opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal posted on May 15 titled “Organic Farming Is Not Sustainable” by Henry Miller. The Center pointed out that Miller takes a very narrow and incomplete view of the environmental impacts of organic farming, missing the broader picture showing the sustainability advantages of organic practices – and the vast evidence of these advantages supported by scientific research. Read the full response here:  http://organic-center.org/news/response-to-organic-farming-is-not-sustainable/
 
Not Skin Deep: The benefits of organic go beyond the peel
The Organic Center posted a blog this month about the importance of choosing organic – even when you plan on peeling your fruit! The misconception that peeling produce can give the same advantages in pesticide avoidance as choosing organic does not take several facts into account, such as the presence of pesticides inside produce and the use of systemic pesticides. Read the full blog here to learn about how pesticides can penetrate the peels of fruit and vegetables, and be taken up by plant roots.
 
Dr. Mark Hoddle’s Search for Predatory Insects to Control Citrus Greening
The Organic Center’s most recent Featured Scientist is Dr. Mark Hoddle, a Biological Control Specialist at the University of California, Riverside.  He has headed his laboratory at UC Riverside since 1997, and is the director of the Center for Invasive Species Research. The Organic Center interviewed him about his use of biological controls to combat the Asian Citrus Psyllid.  He discusses why finding controls for citrus greening is so important, and organic methods for doing so such as using biological controls. He also talks about his adventures exploring Afghanistan for predatory insects, and what he found during his search.
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